Because Elders Need More Time In Word & Prayer

need-more-time“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them, and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  Acts 6:1-4

In less than 24 hours I’ve heard the claim that Elders in the Church need more time to do elder stuff.  In other words, elders need to be freed up by others picking up the slack so that they can spend more time “in prayer and in the word.”  

Secondly, because these elders are spending more time in the word and prayer, they are further along, more sanctified, more mature, and “better” christians than non-elders.  So, of course it’s rightful that they take authority over non-elders.  

I’m not sure if you would agree with either of the above propositions, but I wanted to ask you a few questions:

1.  Can we apply Acts 6:1-6 and the creation of deacons to justify our duty to find ways of freeing up the time for elders? 

2.  Can we equate the Apostles with New Testament Elders?

3.  Are Elders supposed to be at a higher level, spiritually speaking, than the rest of the flock? 

0 thoughts on “Because Elders Need More Time In Word & Prayer

  1. Jason says:

    By and large it’s the assumptions made before asking the questions that matter most. If a person is approaching it with the mindset “I could be just as good of an Elder if someone else did all my work so I could just sit and read all day”, watch out, because the enemy already has a foothold in that person’s heart and is leveraging it to create a division much like in the case of Korah.

    It usually surfaces that a person is jealous of the Elder, simply because people who recognize that there are faithful men in authority over them don’t think like “I need to pick up the slack so that guy can study”. It’s kinda sad that “business minded people” understand it better than most laypersons do, but if you’re thinking of it in terms of “prime resource allocation”, wouldn’t you want your most valuable assets distributed in such a way as to provide the most benefit to the organization?

    Or for the military-minded, shouldn’t a congregation want it’s boldest warriors to be able to spend time in the Word and prayer, communicating with the Commanding Officer?

    I would not for one minute advocate that a person in church leadership never pick up a scrub brush and polish the porcelain thrones (or to stay in line with what’s being covered in Acts 6, ensuring that the Alms ministry is being fairly overseen), but I wouldn’t want “day-to-days” to consume so much of a teacher’s time that they’re unable to receive from the Teacher that which they’re supposed to communicate to the flock.

    Also important to keep in mind is the context: the Apostles weren’t sitting around in “business as usual” routines, poo-pooing bourgeois requests so they could shave an extra stroke off their golf game. Jesus had just recently ascended, Peter had just spoken in such a way that I’m sure even he was surprised, the Church was growing daily (which likely spooked the twelve as they were having to daily work with a crowd that was growing rather than crowds that would disperse after the Teacher was done teaching for the day), and they were under threat from the Pharisees that they would suffer grave consequences if they continued to preach “in that Man’s name”. Needless to say, hopefully you and I both would approach such a task with just as much godly fear and desire for His wisdom as they did.

  2. Rob Kampen says:

    Maybe another thought to consider is the difference between the five fold ministry gifts (apostle was mentioned) and the roles that you function in. I would use the term “role” to describe deacon or elder – i.e. an office held with attendant responsibility and authority. The particular giftedness one possesses and is called to operate in, is another matter entirely. Regardless of any office I may hold or not hold at any time, my gift(s) is/are to be developed and used for the building up of the body.

    • Jason says:


      I just wrote about that in my post “You’re Ripping Us Off”….gifts should be operating in the Body at all times, whether a person has an “office” or not. Everyone is called to share the Gospel and make disciples, regardless of whether they’re on a staff somewhere with a job title that says so.

  3. David Woods says:

    Two things in this verse that it seems disputes the claims you’ve been hearing.

    Number one, MINISTRY of The Word. It’s not just “in The Word”, but it’s actually Ministering The Word, working, actually doing something that takes time away from something else.

    Number two, and most importantly, let’s look at the people being picked to do the serving. It doesn’t seem to be people who just haven’t yet reached elder status, but to the contrary, it’s those “who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom”. It seems to be those who may not need to be in the pews quite so much as some others. Those maybe, who have learned to “feed” themselves sometimes, and have need to be out “feeding” others.

    I think this verse has more to do with making sure all jobs get done without any being neglected—than it does with “spiritual status” or hierarchy within the church.

  4. Laurie Norris says:

    Lots need doing.

  5. David Bartholomew says:

    A point that gets missed when we read this story is that it is a record of what was said and done. Not that what they did was necessarily right.

    Jesus was not neglecting ministry when he healed the sick or fed 5,000 or more people – he was putting what he said into action. He did send others out to minister, but not before he lived it out in his life first.

    We preach more by what we do than by what we say.

  6. Tom Schultz says:

    All excellent comments! I like the comment that just because it is recorded doesn’t mean it was commanded or even right. It was early days. Its not clear that the 12 were classed as elders, nor that this event was meant to set policy in other churches… there were no other churches!!.
    It does seem that the chosen “deacons” were hardly just picked from the group because they has some skills in food distribution or couldn’t do anything more important… looks like they could have done the ministry just as well.
    It is not clear what an elder’s job description would be. I thought they could just be older (and presumably more spiritually or generally mature). While I understand the structure of church government is at stake here, it seems dangerous to attach too much significance to this single event.

  7. Vaughn Bender says:

    So I guess in a more simpler approach, in a large church or a small group or community, if there is a need within that group, hopefully there is mature enough leaders to address that need. Not much for labels, elder, deacon, bishop..whatever.. if there is a need, they our purpose as leaders, or simply servants.. lets meet those needs.. through Christ.



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